Today we’d like to introduce you to Jenelle Holmes.
Jenelle, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
There are A LOT of churches in the south, in Atlanta in particular. Our story at Ormewood Church starts with the closing of one of those 100-year-old churches. It’s a death and resurrection type of story. Ormewood Park Presbyterian Church in the Ormewood Park neighborhood of Southeast Atlanta had worshipped at the corner of Delaware and Woodland Avenue for 100+ years. Like many churches, it aged and couldn’t quite keep up with the demographic and cultural changes so the Presbytery (the regional group that oversees these churches) closed its doors in the spring of 2016.
The Presbytery was planning on selling the property, but the neighborhood freaked out! Everything in Southeast Atlanta is being subdivided and sold, and they knew if the Presbyterian Church sold this property, it would be the same housing development story. This was particularly sad for this neighborhood because the property of the old church held one of the only green spaces in the neighborhood; it held the dog yard, playground, gathering hall, and countless memories for the neighborhood, whether they darkened the door on Sundays or not.
The Presbytery held neighborhood potlucks to gauge what the neighborhood DID want in that space. In the end, they really just wanted a more vibrant, friendlier, and open church–one that was deeply involved in the well-being of Southeast Atlanta.
Fast forward a year: now I pastor a fun, creative, energetic, and friendly community at the corner of Delaware and Woodland called Ormewood Church. This new church reflects the neighborhood in so many ways: the people are artistic, progressive, passionate about social justice, and love sharing meals and bottles of wine together. Ormewood Church hosts a stop on the fall Porch Crawl in the neighborhood, organizes the winter luminary event with caroling, and participates in the ongoing conversations and causes close to the hearts of those who live here. It’s really a “user-friendly” church where people worship on Sundays around a bunch of coffee tables with coloring supplies next to the Bibles. It’s also a safe space to connect during the week at events that aren’t faith-driven, like a recent local author event, co-planned with the Friends of East Atlanta Library.
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Starting a new church shares a lot of real estate with all start-ups. Like most new small businesses, we’ve done A LOT of listening–to neighbors, to other spiritual leaders in the area, to the Spirit, obviously.
We’ve also tried to approach many things in a “Design” mindset, taken from the D.School at Stanford and the wonderful book that came out of that, Creative Confidence. So good. Basically, it encourages creativity through experimentation, failure, and improvement. Over and over and over. That process is not for the faint of heart. Yet it can also be very exciting because you’re able to keep the pressure threshold lower when everything is an “experiment” meant to get you somewhere more amazing. I think it also captures a side of God we don’t talk about enough: God is a creator too, experimenting and coming up with all sorts of amazing things–some of which go well and others, well, don’t. But that’s a whole other bag of worms.
So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Ormewood Church story. Tell us more about the business.
We are a new, small, neighborhood church of the PC(USA), which is a progressive branch of the Christian church. We are known for a few things down here in SE Atlanta.
First, we’re progressive. I am the pastor and I am a woman, which still causes snags for some people in the Christian church. Don’t even get me started. The first couple whom I performed a wedding ceremony for in the sanctuary of Ormewood Church was an interracial lesbian couple. We’re pretty darn open and affirming.
Second, we’re casual. There are no organs or robes. I often wear jeans when I preach, and like I said before, we worship around coffee tables. The folks at Ormewood Church love having it feel like their living room on Sunday mornings.
Lastly, we’re pretty invested in the neighborhoods of SE Atlanta. Many people walk to the church on Sunday morning. The large neighborhood festival is located in our parking lot. We are an annual stop on the Porch Crawl and host or sponsor countless events in Ormewood Park. We also volunteer or work in many nonprofit spaces in Atlanta. We just love where we live and want to be good neighbors.
Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
Well, that’s a funny question to ask a pastor. I would frame it as “providence” and not luck. Providence means the protective care of a Spiritual power.
I think that God is love and love is definitely a power that moves throughout the world, in and out of spaces. I would like to think that that love, that protective care of a Spiritual being, has had a very pronounced role in the life of Ormewood Church. I don’t believe God is a candy shop who dispenses favor on those who remember to pray, I think God is on board and willing to move powerfully in our creations (churches, business, relationships, etc.) where love is the center. Providence favors not the “bold” as the saying goes, but the loving.
- Address: 1071 Delaware Avenue SE, Atlanta, GA 30316
- Website: www.ormewoodchurch.org
- Phone: 678.962.7828
- Email: email@example.com
Greg Parent, Martyn Hope